Our recent trip to Phoenix included a profound and inspirational encounter that truly blessed me. It came unexpectedly in the form of a two-hour conversation on the patio at a public golf course. It was what I like to call a “God Sighting.” I asked for and received permission to write about it in my blog.
Kim was my stepson David’s girlfriend. I don’t recall exactly when we first met, but I know I liked her immediately. She was very young, tall and beautiful; but she had an endearing sweetness and genuineness. I thought she was a good match for David. He was a handful, and Kim was adventurous and athletic enough to keep up, and with a mind of her own to hold him in check. They had their ups and downs, but she was kind and loyal, and generally a good influence on him. Over time, I really grew to love her.
When David died in a snowboarding accident in 2002, Kim was devastated. In the immediate aftermath, we spent significant time together grieving. I was heartbroken over losing David and all the other aspects of his life that I would miss – his friends, his future wife, his future children, his future life. Although I didn’t fully understand it at the time, I was also sorry to lose Kim as part of my life.
As fate would have it, Kim married VJ, who was one of David’s good friends. We kept in touch sporadically over the years and through these brief exchanges I learned Kim and VJ moved to the Phoenix area and had two little girls; that she had struggled mightily with David’s death for years; and that she and VJ had encountered significant issues in their marriage. Her most recent message to me, however, was upbeat, and conveyed that through hard work on their marriage, and God’s help, they had emerged stronger and more deeply in love. We also agreed to meet when my husband and I were in Scottsdale for our Spring Training trip.
Thinking about Kim reminded me of the ripple effect of a death, and how so many lives are changed forever. There are untold people or ways we may never even be aware of. With David’s death, I have been mindful of various family members struggling in different ways. And Kim was another victim of his death. The last time we saw her in person, the year David died, she was a frightened, confused and shattered young woman. I wasn’t sure what to expect now. Would it be awkward? Would she still be broken after all these years? My expectation was that our role in this visit might be chiefly support and comfort.
On our first full day in Scottsdale, she met us alone at the golf course. As we walked off the course my heart leapt for joy as she rushed toward us with a huge smile. She was a more mature, but still beautiful, version of the girl I remembered.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (English Standard Version, Psalm 34:18)
As the three of us sat on the patio, we caught up on the here and now, reminisced about the past, and about David, and we laughed and cried. It was not at all awkward: rather there was an easy familiarity. She was keenly interested in hearing about our son (David’s half-brother) and about us. Then she told us about her life in the years since David’s death.
What emerged was the story of a strong, courageous and confident woman who had walked through the valley of death and by faith and determination had found healing, transformation and redemption in her life and in the life of her family. What stuck me most was her fierce love for her two young daughters, who obviously fuel her drive. Her eyes light up when she talks about her girls. She spoke in great detail about each of them and their special talents and abilities. She is a mother who listens to and notices the individual gifts of each child and finds ways to nurture them.
As Kim spoke of her mother, Patricia, I remembered that Kim shared a similarly strong bond with her own mother. Patricia is now a source of support for Kim with the girls. In fact, Patricia just left with Kim’s oldest daughter on a special grandma-granddaughter trip to Paris. Kim has surrounded herself and her girls with love and support.
Kim has not lost her sweetness and genuineness. She spoke openly and lovingly about her husband, the trials they have been through, and the life they have built together. I can only imagine how complicated and difficult it must have been to work through the issues of having a “ghost” in the marriage. But they fought for their marriage, and through prayer and effort, they have strengthened their bond.
“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. “ (James 1:5-7)
The day before we left Phoenix, we met up briefly with Kim at the Dodger’s Stadium in Phoenix. She was at the game with VJ, her two girls and her parents. After hearing so much about all of them, I was delighted to meet them. As we hugged good-bye, it was the hug of loved ones. Although she is not family in the strict sense, we walked away knowing we will always be important in each other’s lives.
I felt witness to two miracles that day – the first being the divine makeover of Kim’s family and the second being the restoration of Kim in ours. I thought, too, of how appropriate that this took place in Phoenix, named for the mythological creature that rose from the ashes to fly and soar.
“The ash began to tremble and slowly heave itself upward. From under the ash there rose up a young Phoenix. It was small and looked sort of crumpled, but it stretched its neck and lifted it wings and flapped them. Moment by moment it grew, until it was the same size as the old Phoenix. Then the Phoenix flew up and away.” (The legend of the Phoenix)
I am exceedingly proud of Kim and who she has become. I am inspired by her example of commitment. I give praise to God for hearing and answering her prayers. And I am grateful to have her back in my life.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)